My parents’ bedroom had an en suite bathroom and dressing room – of course it did. The bath was a six-footer and, when I was a child, I used to lie full length under the water with just my nose sticking out. There was another bathroom, but it was a big, cheerless room and only guests used it. There was a separate loo – of course there was – and no cistern, when you pulled the chain, the water came straight from the tanks up in the attic, so if the valve stuck open, as happened once, water just kept flushing through. There was a wooden seat, a nice old one, well polished by years of sitting. There was no lid.
Also on that floor was the spare bedroom, which was above the dining room, which had its own washbasin, so guests didn’t have to use the cheerless bathroom unless they wanted a bath. There was the housemaid’s pantry, which was a room about five feet wide and ten feet long, and the linen cupboard; about the same size. Not sure why they needed both, but of course my grandparents had Staff. Then there was a passageway, with the day nursery halfway down and the night nursery at the end, down a couple of steps, above the scullery and next to the back stairs. The day nursery was used as another spare bedroom – in 1976, my son Alex was born there. The night nursery had all sorts of things in it, including my father’s office stuff. He had a printing set – the proper thing, you set the individual letters to make up the words and there was a Roneo duplicator and a franking machine.
Tim asked delicately, what happened to all the money, then? Death duties, taxation and a kind but unwise investment, in short. The investment surcharge of the late 1960s raised a top slice of over 100% on invested earnings – it was retrospective, so couldn’t be planned for in advance. A year or so after that, my father died suddenly and a company he’d put a lot of money in, to try to keep it afloat and help a friend keep his job, went bust. It was, unfortunately, after it had been included in the valuation of everything Daddy owned; because, in those days, a widow paid death duties on the death of her husband. So she had to pay tax on an investment that no longer existed. My father had set up a trust, which was only intended to last until Wink and I had grown up and wouldn’t need a guardian, and really was planned for if both our parents were killed in a cross-Europe trip in their sports car, which they’d taken ten years earlier. But that didn’t happen, my mother didn’t inherit the capital and nor did Wink or I. So, if you’re thinking of me as an heiress, I’m not, in fact. Russell inherited this house from his parents (which needed a lot of work done at the time), but otherwise we’ve made our own way in life. And that was easier to do than it is for our children and there are no complaints.